To the Editor:
I agree with Jim Taradine’s letter promoting the use of highway tolls to fund the much needed repair and maintenance of our state roads and bridges.
Every neighboring state to Connecticut has highway tolls and it costs virtually the same to repairs our roads as theirs. To make up for the lack of toll income, we have higher fuel taxes. The result is truckers fuel up in other states and pass through Connecticut toll and tax free.
Rather than spend significant dollars studying the problem, let’s do what Rhode Island has done. Their state government passed a bill that resulted in the erection of electronic toll stanchions. However they only collect tolls on 18-wheel trucks, with the rationale that these heavy transports do far more damage to roads and bridges than passenger cars and pickup trucks.
Tolls are collected via E-ZPass or by taking photos of the truck license plate and mailing tickets. The maximum a trucker can pay for passing through the state is $20. I suspect that some truckers are avoiding tolls on I-95 in Rhode Island by taking toll-free I-395 in Connecticut, making our problem worse. The Rhode Island law states that their government cannot impose tolls on cars and pickups without a referendum of the state voters.
Another issue that will need attention in the future is electric cars. Currently the purchase of electric vehicles is subsidized, for good reason. But given the fact that the fuel taxes are the main source of funding for road maintenance and improvements, electric vehicle owners will not be paying into this fund. Is it fair for them to use the roads and bridges without providing any support for their repairs?
We just passed a referendum supporting the concept of a “lockbox” for transportation funds. While this is great, we need to examine all sources of revenue and recognize that Connecticut is in competition for funds with our neighboring states. Massachusetts charges those with MA E-ZPasses less than those from other states. Virginia charges tolls based on time of day and congestion.
Electronic tolls provide for flexibility and creativity. Tolls allow taxing those that pass through our state on our roads, which seems fair to me.